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Falling down and fighting back


World Cup photographer and writer Irmo Keizer is traveling with the GHOST Factory Racing Team and getting a close look behind the scenes like almost no one else. Over the race season he will share his insights with us and provides you with stories offside ordinary racing results. Take a look and enjoy.

With the fifth consecutive champagne shower in Val di Sole as the leading team in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, faint smiles show on some faces. Today was a tough day for the riders. Expectations were not met, and these ladies are tough on themselves when not reaching their goals. In Val di Sole, one face made a reappearance.

Initial injury

As the cheers of the crowd were broken by screams of pain, the severity of the injury became apparent on the very first moment. Marika Tovo had crashed during the World Cup in Nove Mesto. She had shown tremendous potential in the months leading up to the event and was poised to get a good result. Her inaugeral year in the GHOST Factory Racing team would take a drastically different turn, as she was diagnosed in the hospital.


“I don’t know what happened in Nove Mesto. It was such a stupid crash in a corner, as I just brushed a tree and then got caught in the course tape. Next thing I remember is a moment in the ambulance. I felt a lot of pain. I do remember I tried to get back on the bike, but screamed as I tried and fell down. Then, I woke up in the hospital. I don’t have any memories of what happened in between.”


Marika suffered a fracture in her patellae as well as an infarction in her femur bone. After receiving treatment in the Czech Republic, she arrived back home. After a week, Marika’s leg started to ache on the back. In the hospital the doctors found a second fracture, this time in the upper tibia. Vital to limb movement, this could well be a potential career ending injury.

The mental game

Physical pain is relatively easy to deal with. Mental pain is what can truly test a person to the very limit. An athlete’s existence is based upon results, achievements and progress. An injury can shatter dreams in an instant. It’s a harsh reality.

As Marika received the bad news on her second fracture, her battle began. The following three weeks where hell for her. She was told she would not be able to ride a bike at all for at least two months. What followed was an emotional rollercoaster. Questions arose in her head about her future. Sadness about the inability to race. Mind-games all around while not even being able to walk.

The way back


“After forty days of resting it is so hard to do anything. You’re exhausted so soon. There’s absolutely no power whatsoever. Getting the balance back power wise in the legs takes a lot of work. It is now back to 53-47% so I am getting there.

As for support, it has been invaluable. Especially my boyfriend who spent a lot of time with me. I was just lying on the sofa in the beginning, feeling sorry for myself. He was there and so was my family. Also the team and Tom and Andy were so supportive. I’ve talked to Andy every two to three days (Andy speaks Italian).

Now, I am happy again. I want to be back as soon as possible. I am working hard, but I will not rush it. I want to make a full recovery and only then will I race again. I was in the mountains a short while ago, enjoying nature and cycling. It is just such a good feeling. Now, I want to come back stronger than ever. I want to be able to ride without thinking of my leg. Riding without pressure, powerful and balanced. And of course, realize my Olympic dream. Giving it all, pushing hard and enjoy racing at the highest level." - Marika Tovo

(Text by Irmo Keizer. Photos by Attention Builders - Irmo Keizer & Andreas Dobslaff.)


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